Opera: Not Dead, But Reborn
What’s up with the Met, and Opera North
I may not always be the most ardent of opera aficionados, but even I sit up and take notice when the Met announces that it’s in trouble.
Per the New York Times, the Metropolitan Opera, as with most performance venues, is finding that the post-pandemic audiences are not showing up in the hoped-for numbers, perhaps because they believe the pandemic is not quite “post-”. But that is not the whole story, or maybe not even the major part. Modern works, like “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” staged last year, and the recent “The Hours” have packed the house. (“The Hours” was recently screened here via the Hopkins Center and the Met’s Live in HD.) By contrast, a traditional opera, “Don Carlo,” was a disappointment, filling the Met at only 40% capacity.
As a result, the Met is pledging not only to incorporate more modern operas (by living composers) into its upcoming seasons, it plans also to bring back “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” and “The Hours” for another round next year. And it is dipping into its own endowment to the tune of $30 million to make it all happen.
Where have I been? Apparently none of this is exactly new. Almost ten years ago, an article in the Washington Post said this: “Opera, as a genre, is essentially frozen in amber - Raman [a composer who charted Met performances over time] found that the median year of composition of pieces performed at the Met has always been right around 1870. In other words, the Met is essentially performing the exact same pieces now that it was 100 years ago.”
Looking closer to home, Opera North (ON) has been busy extracting opera from the amber, starting with moving it from its traditional venue, Lebanon Opera House, to the outdoors under the “Big Top” at Blow-Me-Down Farm in Cornish NH. It has established partnerships with Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park and the United States Park Service. Family-friendly performances invite audiences to picnic pre- or post-performance on the grounds—you can bring your own or patronize a food truck on the premises.
Full traditional operas remain on ON’s schedule, but American musical theater has been included, like Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel,” coming up in ON’s 2023 SummerFest. But for innovation, nothing, in my humble opinion, has surpassed ON’s productions pairing opera singers and circus performers, a combination that will again return this year. Director Evans Haile’s comments on the changing opera scene reflect that Opera North is not just talking, but is itself walking the walk.
“We are excited that Opera is redefining itself in so many ways appealing to new audiences across many demographics. Whether it is new works, vital reimagined productions of classics or perhaps a unique mash up of circus artists, virtuoso singers and orchestra, Opera will continue to entertain, tell stories and touch people of all ages with its passion, beauty, and timeless insights into humanity.”
For further information about Opera North and the upcoming SummerFest 2023, click here. The New York Times article about the Metropolitan Opera can be found here.
Over 2,100 subscribers . . . and counting! You’re reading Artful, a blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley, and I hope you’ll subscribe and then share this with your friends and on your social media.
The Hopkins Center for the Arts helps support Artful and joins Artful in celebrating those who love, make and share the art in our community. Explore Winter 2023 at the Hop.
And in case you are wondering . . . Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.